From Miami to Milan, via Jozi (sort of)

From Miami to Milan, via Jozi (sort of)
Main photo: The Mori Building Digital Art Museum in Tokyo. Photographer: BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP

Whether you want one perfect day or a full weekend away, we’ve got you covered. Everyone needs a foolproof date-night plan — or romantic escape — regardless of whether or not they celebrate Valentine’s Day. Here’s a cheat-sheet you can use any time and (almost) anywhere, tried and tested by Bloomberg’s experts in 14 cities, from Miami to Milan – via Jozi.


(Main photo)

If you want one great night: Get lost in the enchanted world that is the Borderless Digital Museum in Odaiba, a dimly lit, 100,000-square-foot maze of captivating visual projections and kaleidoscopic art installations. Make it out there before sunset, and you can take advantage of the giant, 377-foot-high Ferris wheel just outside. Then it’s off to Ujien Urasando Garden café, a tucked-away gem in Omotesando where the intimate vibes and stellar matcha drinks feel like a wormhole to old Kyoto. Dinner is nearby, at Nishi Azabu, an unpretentious Michelin-starred restaurant that blends the best of Scandinavian, French, and North American flavours. (Think bamboo-charcoal croquettes disguised as stones and desserts, topped with frozen herb “dust.”) Still going strong? Close out with cocktails at Gen Yamamato, whose knack for balancing unlikely ingredients always feels like magic.

If you want a weekend getaway: Head to the quaint mountain village of Kusatsu in Gunma. This hot spring resort is only a two-hour train ride from central Tokyo and far less crowded than the ever-popular Hakone, but it’s at least as charming — if not more so. In the cold winter months it doubles as a ski destination; prioritise a few runs at Kusatsu Snow & Spa Resort during the day, then warm up in the city centre’s illuminated yubatake (sort of like giant, naturally heated foot baths) before indulging on manjus, a local confection that’s soft, steamed, and made from maple.


Chotto Matte, a new Miami restaurant whose design is as striking as the Nikkei-style menu. Source: Chotto Matte

If you’re going out on a weekday: Start the day early by watching the sun rise over South Pointe Park in South Beach. You’ll need only your beach towel and camera. Stop somewhere nearby  for a casual breakfast afterward, and if you dont need to be in the office, spend the day at the classic Fontainebleau Hotel, where a treatment at the stately Lapis Spa will give you access to the resort’s pools and beach for the day. Once the sun sets — or work finishes — take a pre-dinner stroll along Lincoln Road and Española Way. You’ll work up an appetite for the Japanese-Peruvian fare at Chotto Matte, where dishes like yuzu-glazed Nippon chicken and rib-eye steak anticuchos (skewers) are prepared on a traditional robata grill and served in a soaring, indoor-outdoor atrium.

If you’re going out on the weekend: Kick off your adventures on and along the Miami River, starting with a mile-long, manatee-spotting walk around the Brickell Key loop. Then it’s off for a scenic history lesson at Miami Circle Park, where you can explore what remains of a 2,000-year-old settlement at the confluence of the Miami River and Biscayne Bay. Use Boatsetter (it’s like Airbnb for sailing) to charter a small yacht for the rest of the weekend — and head straight to Luijo Island. It’s tiny, accessible only by boat, and offers a great view of the Miami skyline; conveniently, you’ll be just downstream from Greek hotspot Kiki on the River, where it’s de rigueur to sit outside for a late, languid lunch of lavraki (sea bass) and tomato salad. From there, Fisher Island is your last stop: The 1920s cottages that make up its glitzy Island Club resort are tucked right next to a marina, making them a convenient and plush landing pad for a pampering weekend (not too far) away.

Saint Petersburg

Saint Petersburg, Russia -? January 09, 2016: Building of the Hermitage (Winter Palace) in winter. Hermitage is one of the largest and oldest museums of art and culture in the world

The Hermitage is especially beautiful when surrounded by snow. Photographer: Anna_Pakutina/iStock Editorial

If you want one great night: You’re lucky that this year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Thursday — one of three days the Hermitage stays open until 9pm, making it the perfect place to walk off a round of drinks from the Gatsby-esque Apotheke cocktail bar. With that in mind, book a fashionably late dinner at what’s arguably the city’s most established (certainly its most beautiful) restaurant, L’Europe inside the Grand Hotel Europe. Its vaulted, double-height dining room and Art Nouveau ceiling will guarantee that the meal feels as special as the night.

If you want a weekend getaway: If it’s February in St Petersburg, chances are you’re in the mood to get out of the city. Take a drive north into Finland to stay at the rustic Hotel Punkaharju, which recently underwent a total restoration. Set on Lake Saimaa, the largest lake in Finland, there are plenty of winter activities, including illuminated Nordic ski trails and snowshoe routes. (For the truly strong of heart, there’s winter swimming in the lake.) On your way back, stop in the historic seaside town of Vyborg to check out the its medieval fortress — and take a break from the cold at the English-style gastropub Creep Pub, which, despite its name, offers hearty fare and a warm welcome.


The Pinacoteca Museum, in the elegant Palazzo Brera. Photographer: Cesare Maiocchi

If you want one great night: First, book one of the 11 ultra-spacious suites at the Bulgari Hotel, a renovated 18th-century Milanese palazzo hidden down a private street in central Milan. Since you’ll be right above the luxury shopping outlets that line Via Montenapoleone and Via della Spiga, pick up something nice to wear at Massimo Alba and then go and see conductor Marc Albrecht lead the orchestra at the city’s great opera house, Teatro alla Scala, a five-minute walk down the street. Or stop into Pinacoteca, housed in the elegant Palazzo Brera, where you can see masterpieces of Italian painting in an intimate setting. Either way, you’ll want to eat at Il Ristorante back at the hotel. Helmed by Niko Romito, who’s earned three Michelin stars at his remote Reale restaurant, this spot features what he calls “recodified” versions of the classics, from lasagna to veal Milanese and — of course — tiramisù.

If you want a weekend getaway: It may take a little longer to get to the Dolomites from Milan than, say, to St Moritz, but the impeccably appointed inns along the region’s mountain towns are worth the four-hour drive. In pastel-colored Cortina d’Ampezzo, Cristallo Resort & Spa has 73 spacious, country-chic rooms overlooking an iconic clocktower and the snow-capped mountains beyond — all bookable with points, since it’s part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection. Or stay in the more Bavarian-feeling town of San Cassiano, where the wellness-oriented Rosa Alpina has a world-famous spa with indoor pool, Finnish sauna, hammam, and cold plunge pool — all perfect after a day of “mindful skiing” with a resort guide.

Abu Dhabi

The spa at Alila Jabal Akhdar in Oman, an easy weekend trip from Abu Dhabi. Source: Alila Hotels and Resorts

If you want one great night: Your romantic evening begins with a dose of culture — an exhibit on the Dutch Masters will open on Valentine’s Day at the Louvre Abu Dhabi: See more than 90 pieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and their contemporaries. Then it’s just a 10-minute drive up the road on Saadiyat Island to the Park Hyatt for a sunset dinner at the Beach House restaurant, which has a range of Italian- and Spanish-influenced dishes. Sounds a little too sedate? Skip the museum and head for the water. You can rent a kayak from one of several operators, including Noukhada and Sea Hawk, for two-hour tours of the mangroves.

If you want a weekend getaway: Get out of the city and hop over to Oman, where the luxurious Alila Jabal Akhdar hotel and spa is tucked into the dramatic Al Hajar mountains. (Ask for the Ridge View Suite for the best views of the canyons.) You could spend all day in the spa or by the infinity pool, going to yoga and meditation classes. But if you can pull yourself away, take advantage of the surroundings to explore the local villages and wadi, or valley, on a long hike. To get your heart really racing, try a via ferrata climb — or wait until nightfall, when unrivaled stargazing sessions are sure to set your heart aflutter.

Los Angeles

The Green Room, a scenic (but hard-to-find) speakeasy that’s worth seeking out. Photographer: Wonho Frank Lee

If you want one great night: You might not be able to levitate in the planetarium like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, but fans of La La Land can still recreate some of the film’s oh-so-romantic dance scenes. Drive up the winding road to the Griffith Park Observatory at dusk and twirl your partner as the lights turn on in the city below. Then head to the Green Room, the swanky new speakeasy tucked behind the Castaway restaurant in nearby Burbank. The indoor-outdoor hideaway, open only on Friday and Saturday nights, offers fireside seating, big cocktails served in hand-blown-glass creations, and views that span from downtown LA to the San Fernando Valley. Reservations are required, but worth it — if only for the feeling you’re floating above it all. For bookings on Valentine’s Day itself, you’ll need to eat at the Castaway first.

If you want a weekend getaway: Just 80 miles northwest of the city, the Rosewood Miramar Beach resort in Montecito is opening on February 11. It’s the first time in two decades that you can stay in California’s grand dame, whose history stretches back to the 1870s. Book one of 26 accommodations at the Beach House and you’ll get ocean views from a private patio — just like nearby residents Oprah Winfrey and Rob Lowe. While you’re there, check out the botanical gardens at Lotusland; then Uber up to Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, a bustling warehouse-turned-arts district for a tipple at the Santa Barbara Wine Collective and Mediterranean-inspired dinner at Blackbird in the remodeled Hotel Californian. Save time for a detour on your drive home: A short hike at the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve reveals spectacular views of the crashing waves and jagged cliffs — the perfect romantic photo op.


A spot for cocktails and conversation on the Blue Train that runs between Johannesburg and Cape Town. Source: The Blue Train

If you want one great night: Warm up with an early drink and snacks at Marble to relish the westward views before the sun goes down. The ideal order: a super-summery Bianco Charra No. 1 (gin, lemon juice, elderflower syrup, and cucumber) and a dozen oysters topped with citrus granita, mint, and a spectacular Thai water dressing. Afterward, amble north to Marble’s sister restaurant Saint, where sinners are not only welcomed but encouraged. The ostrich feathers and neon lighting make for a Johannesburg meets Miami Vice vibe, and the luscious Italian dishes are fit for gluttons; think gooey arancini, balsamic-braised lamb, and a rich mascarpone parfait for dessert. For the young and reckless, Taboo Night Club is just around the block — along with a wide array of hotels.

If you want a weekend getaway: Go big and book tickets to Cape Town on the Blue Train, Africa’s answer to the Orient Express. You’ll have two nights to sample South African specialities, including Knysna oysters and Karoo lamb, while sipping on wines from the Western Cape. The views are also to be savoured as the train winds its way through purple-hued desert lands to the green-backed mountains of the Hex River Valley and the vineyard-strewn village of De Doorns, finally arriving at the foothills of iconic Table Mountain. From white sand beaches to scuba diving with seals and spectacular restaurants galore, the city affectionately known as “Mother City” has it all — including an art scene unmatched on the continent.


Tivoli Eco Resort, in Evora. Source: Tivoli Hotels & Resorts

If you want one great night: There are few more romantic ways to kick off an evening than with a sunset catamaran cruise on the Tagus (Tejo) River; the itineraries that depart from the city’s BMW Sailing Academy include traditional Portuguese canapes, cocktails, and views of the renowned Torre de Belém. (Bring a blanket to bundle up if it’s chilly.) Then have an intimate meal at Local restaurant, a communal chef’s counter on a colourful side street near Praca do Príncipe Real square. The place looks humble, with seating for only 10, but the food is superior: mushroom quinoa, skate with morels, oxtail with root vegetables. Your date will be impressed with your insider knowledge.

If you want a weekend getaway: Rather than hitting the Azores or the Algarve, try the World Heritage City of Évora. Just a one-hour drive from Lisbon, it’s home to the new Tivoli Eco Resort, with 56 villas strewn around a complex of striking, whitewashed architecture. The spa is a real selling point: It has steam rooms with Turkish baths, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and a chromotherapy room where coloured lights are meant to help you relax and unwind. Be sure to explore the surrounding area, which is full of Roman ruins, dramatic cathedrals, and colonial squares; it’s one of the country’s most charming, underrated destinations.


Duck de Chine is famed for a reason. Courtesy of Rosewood Hotels and Resorts

If you’re going out on a weekday: Put yourselves in the hands of the talented, vest-clad bartenders at Hoper to kick off your night: The jazzy cocktail bar just off Beiluoguxiang Hutong alleyway offers creative riffs on classics and a wide range of off-the-menu concoctions. Then grab a taxi to dine for one of the city’s most rightly famed indulgences: Peking duck with a French twist at Duck de Chine. There’s drama in every aspect of the meal, from the Bollinger Champagne Bar to the hand-carved presentation of those famous, crispy-skinned birds.

If you want a weekend getaway: Spend a night at the Brickyard, a renovated tile factory in Beigou Village. Though it’s only an hour outside of the city, it feels worlds away, with a view of the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. Go hiking along the monument during the day, then come back to a jacuzzi, sauna, and yoga platform when your legs have grown weary. Bonus: The hotel serves good western food, though you can also try northern Chinese food (and even some of China’s fearsome rice wine) in the nearby village.


Suite 6 of the Inn at Little Washington, in Washington, Virginia. Photographer: Gordon Beall

If you want one great night: Avoid running around town on a tight schedule and focus your attention on an all-in-one destination instead. At the $2.5-billion, 23-acre development the Wharf, you can start with drinks and hand-carved jamon iberico at the glass-walled Spanish restaurant Del Mar, then walk a few steps to Kith & Kin, where chef Kwame Onwuachi is producing vibrant quail and Gulf shrimp gumbo. A few blocks away, mixologist Todd Thrasher offers frozen rum-and-cokes at his brand new Tiki TNT & Potomac Distilling bar. You might even coordinate your night for a show at the Anthem, the 6,000-seat hall that showcases performers from Meek Mill to Interpol, who will be in the house February 15.

If you want a weekend getaway: Start with breakfast in the high-ceilinged lobby of the Line DC, a hotel set in a renovated church. (On request, it will serve pastry chef Pichet Ong’s phenomenal, multilayered dome cakes, such as the cocoa-banana-coffee Brooklyn.) Then get in a car and drive 90 minutes southwest to Washington, Virginia, home of the Inn at Little Washington; its dining room just became the first in the capital area to receive three Michelin stars. After checking in — Suite 6 is modeled after the Ritz Paris — you can make your way to the nearby town of Sperryville, which has lovely antique stores, the option of horseback riding at Conyers House Country Inn & Stable, or the chance to drink wood-fired beers at Pen Druid Brewing. Dinner and breakfast are no-brainers at the Inn —less obvious is a gin-centric pit-stop at Murlarkey Distilled Spirits to break up the drive back home.


Mil, a new restaurant by Virgilio Martinez in Peru’s Sacred Valley. Photographer: Gustavo Vivanco Leon

If you want one great night: Take the unofficial romance-themed tour at El Museo Larco. The museum is best known for its pre-Columbian artefacts, which include jewellery, funerary bundles, tapestries, and pottery — but a self-guided look at the Mochi tribe’s ancient erotic statuettes and the lush floral garden might be more apt for date night. Then drive down the coast to Morphology, a concept shop and art gallery whose rooftop garden supplies a top-floor restaurant called Barra Verde. The lush space is filled with orchids and butterflies (yes, live ones), and the seafood- and vegetable-centric menu manages to feel both healthy and indulgent at the same time.

If you want a weekend getaway: Most people visit Cusco and the Sacred Valley to see centuries-old sites, but make this trip all about contemporary culture, instead. A stay at the new XO Art House will expose you to works by 10 artists currently dominating the local scene; the property itself is also within walking distance of the best art galleries in the creative quarter of San Blas. Then have dinner 11,500 feet above sea level, at Mil. The restaurant is a modernist ode to Peru’s high-altitude agriculture from chef Virgilio Martinez (of Lima’s famed Central), and the view of the Incan farming terraces at Moray is just as memorable as the food.


Baily Lighthouse in Howth, Ireland. Photographer: Roberto Moiola / Sysaworld/Moment RF

If you want one great night: Pay homage to the holiday with a stroll to the Whitefriar Street Church in Dublins city center — the remains of St. Valentine, patron saint of lovers, are said to be in a wooden box tied with a red ribbon in a casket beneath a marble altar. Then continue walking on a tree-lined path in St Stephens Green before warming up with afternoon tea at the grand Shelbourne Dublin. Decide if you want a pre-dinner pint in the 120-year-old Grogans Castle Lounge, beloved among the citys bohemian set. Then it’s a quick cab ride to Ross Lewis’s Michelin-starred Chapter One, which highlights such local ingredients as Irish Guinea hen with white pudding.

If you want a weekend getaway: Hop on the citys DART train service and scoot out to Howth, a small fishing village just north of the city. There, grab a hot chocolate to go in any of the town’s cute cafes and head up to the cliff walk, a six-mile loop overlooking Dublin Bay. The Summit Inn bar, set in a 19th century cottage, is a perfect pit-stop for a pint of Guinness — and it’s worth sticking around for an early charcuterie-and-cheese dinner at the House, once home to Captain William Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty fame. Sleep it off at the new boutique Devlin Hotel back in Dublin: The cosy Americana Bar has a strong selection of Irish whiskey, and the corned beef and scallion hash at breakfast comes with panoramic city views, to boot.


Ice skating at Manoir Hovey, a countryside retreat near the Quebec-Vermont border. Source: Manoir Hovey

If you want one great night: Take off the afternoon to see the famous mobiles at the Museum of Fine Arts’ Alexander Calder exhibition before it closes. Or stop in for an afternoon tipple at Les Enfants Terribles on the 44th-floor observatory at the IM Pei-designed Place Ville Marie for the most romantic view of the city. Work your way toward old Montreal by 6pm for Aura, an immersive, 45-minute multimedia show at the Notre-Dame Basilica, which blends futuristic light projections with beautiful orchestral music. You’ll leave just in time for dinner at swanky Monarque, where prolific French chef Richard Bastien and his son Jeremie churn out indulgent venison tartare and butter-poached lobster.

If you want a weekend getaway: Your getaway to Quebecs Eastern townships, near the Vermont border, starts with a 75-minute drive to Balnea Spa. Soak in hot baths outdoors — with your hat on, Quebec-style — while admiring the snowy landscapes at your now-warm fingertips. The spa’s peaceful restaurant, Lumami, offers a vegetable-focused menu, or you can continue on to Manoir Hovey, a lakefront Relais & Chateaux property with fireplaces in most of its 36 rooms and access to 30 acres of woods and gardens. For Valentine’s Day weekend, the hotel is offering an eight-course menu of Arctic char and quail, which will give you the stamina for a weekend full of snowshoeing, skating on the lake, or even dogsledding with your significant other.


The Peak at Grand Hyatt Manila. Source: Grand Hyatt Manila

If you want one great night: Go on a walking tour of the walled quarter of Intramuros. You’ll take in Spanish-era baroque architecture in the capital’s oldest surviving colonial district, including the Unesco World Heritage Site of San Agustin Church. Come sundown, grab al fresco drinks at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza’s aptly named Sunset Bar, where tables are surrounded by palm trees and overlook Manila Bay. Stuck in the financial district? Book a table at the Peak, which recently opened and is now the tallest restaurant in the city — it occupies the 60th to 62nd floors of the Grand Hyatt Manila. Prioritise a seat in the whisky bar or music lounge, where you can sip cocktails with an unrivaled view of the cityscape.

If you want a weekend getaway: Manila offers no shortage of culinary delights. Yet, about two hours’ drive south in Tagaytay, a food scene with a unique sight awaits. There, the Filipino culinary powerhouse Antonio’s Group operates Balay Dako, an indoor-outdoor spot serving traditional dishes near the world’s smallest active volcano, which sits in the center of a water-filled caldera named Taal. (Request a table near the center windows.) A day trip is doable, but why not spend the night at the picturesque Escala Hotel? You’ll wake up to the smell of the town’s esteemed Barako coffee and a stunning view from your own veranda. For the slightly-more adventurous, glamp under the stars and relish the cool breeze at Nayomi Sanctuary Resort, where tents are tricked out with private decks, string lights, and en-suite bathrooms. – Bloomberg DM


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